Country Situation Analysis |
The 12th General Elections held in March 2008 resulted, for the first time, in the ruling UMNO coalition winning only with a simple majority. The ruling coalition failed to secure a two-thirds majority, the first time this had happened since the May 1969 General Election. In state assembly elections, the government lost control over five major states, namely Penang, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, and Kelantan.
The 9th Malaysian Plan (9MP) Mid Term Review was announced in June 2008 amidst rising oil prices as well as the gathering global financial and economic crisis. The review concluded that Malaysia experienced favourable economic performance with real GDP growth slightly surpassing the 9th Malaysia Plan’s target despite the challenging global economic environment. This has resulted in higher per capita income.
2008 has, nevertheless, been a crossroads for Malaysia, both economically and politically. Oil and commodity prices, two of the staples of its national budget have now plummeted while exports and foreign direct investment also declined significantly in the last quarter of 2008. Building on its experience in handling the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and its relatively strong fiscal position, the government of Malaysia in November 2008 announced a RM 7 billion stimulus package designed to boost domestic consumption and help cushion the economy from the crisis’ worst impacts. While the financial sector is better regulated and was therefore relatively less exposed compared with the financial sectors of many other economies around the world, the impact of the crisis on the real Malaysian economy in 2009 is likely to be severe, especially because it suffers from the vulnerability of “openness” and domestic demand is unlikely to be able to substitute adequately for external demand despite the announcement of at least two stimulus packages (November 2008 and the other expected on 10 March 2009)
Summary on progress towards UNDAF outcomes
Not applicable since there is no UNDAF in Malaysia.
Summary on progress in UN Reform
Progress in UN Reform and Strengthened Coordination
Based on discussions at its January 2008 retreat, the UNCT in Malaysia agreed on a strategy for organising a series of events based on Malaysia’s key development challenges beyond MDG achievement since Malaysia has, at the aggregate level achieved all the MDGs except the one on HIV and AIDS. Some of these challenges lie in the areas of good governance, human rights and development, improving equity in development outcomes, promoting women’s empowerment, and continuing efforts which support initiatives to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Food Crisis - In response to the global escalation of food prices, the UNCT supported the preparation of a Concept Paper outlining the various aspects of the food crisis as it has affected Malaysia. The document looked at the evolving situation, policies, impacts and implications; in particular, emphasis was placed on actions put in place by the Government to respond to the current crisis with a set of related recommendations. The document was shared with the Government.
The UNCT also supported the Joint Action Forum on Food Crisis (JAFFC) on World Food Day, led by Aliran Kesedaran Negara, entitled “The Global Food Crisis: A Malaysian Response”. The forum involved participants from civil society and other stakeholders who discussed the main issues related to the food crisis in Malaysia and the appropriate policies needed to guarantee the fundamental right to food. The recommendations were submitted to the Government, as civil society’s inputs to the country’s response to the food crisis.
MDGs and beyond - The UNCT focused its work on addressing issues beyond the MDGs to help improve the lives of marginalized groups, especially women, children, migrants, refugees, and the disadvantaged; it also addressed some aspects of inequality with the objective of improving equitable development outcomes. In this context, while planned well in advance, the UNCT had to postpone a planned MDG Seminar in the state of Terengganu with key stakeholders due to by-elections in the State. The Seminar was planned to raise awareness and to assess progress made towards the achievement of MDGs in this state, which is one of the poorest in Malaysia.
Nevertheless, the UNCT put the budget allocated for the above event to good use by sponsoring and organizing another event around the important emerging issue of the Global Financial and Economic Crisis to present the UN response to economic slowdown and the continued uncertainty which is currently threatening efforts to tackle the key MDG related concerns of the countries in this region, the UNCT organized a Public Lecture with the theme “Global Financial Crisis and the Economic Slowdown: Implications for S.E.Asia and the United Nations Response” to a wide-ranging audience of approximately 250 people in early 2009. The Public Lecture was delivered by Dr K.S. Jomo, UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), New York. Gender - The UNCT continued its gender related advocacy efforts with various stakeholders to promote gender equality and empowerment and strengthened its efforts on issues related to reproductive health. Moreover, the UNCT in partnership with the Women’s AID Organisation (WAO) coordinated and compiled a CEDAW Brochure, adapted to the local context, for dissemination to national agencies, academic institutions, and NGOs. This brochure is being viewed as a tool to advocate and promote the use of the CEDAW by policy makers and civil society.
Human Rights and Development - In 2008, the UNCT identified a number of substantive human rights and development issues on which it could deepen its involvement by promoting a rights-based approach to national development planning, for example through media campaigns, engaging youth, and support for advocacy oriented seminars.
In addition, in partnership with the Attorney-General’s Chamber of Malaysia, and with Prof. Jaap Doek, former Chairperson of the CRC Committee, UNICEF and UNHCR organized a workshop on ‘International Human Rights Instruments: Compliance with the CRC’ . The Workshop focused on the compliance of the Government of Malaysia with the recommendations of the Committee of the CRC, with particular reference to the existing Malaysian reservations to the Convention. This had contributed to the Government removing some of its reservations to the CRC and has also ensured that mechanisms are established for future reporting processes.
On 15 August 2008, the OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia, in collaboration with the Government, organized the “1st National Consultation of Malaysian NGOs on the Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council”. The workshop was aimed at gathering and discussing inputs from NGOs in Malaysia in order to come up with a systematic and well-structured NGO Report for submission to the OHCHR on 9 September 2008 as an input into Malaysia’s UPR session which was held on 11 February 2009 in Geneva.
In commemoration of Human Rights Day 2008 and the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR, the UNCT also organized a well attended and received “Human Rights Debate” on the continuing relevance of the UDHR in the contemporary context in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) on 16 December 2008. The debate on the theme “universal dignity and justice” reinforced the vision of and commitment to the UDHR and raised awareness of the unfinished human rights agenda with young people and the media. Leaflets and messages summarizing the principles of the UDHR were distributed to students and the public during the event.
The UNCT celebrated UN Day 2008 with the promotion of peace messages from people of all walks of life and the involvement of youth (students and under privileged children).
Coordination Efforts on HIV and AIDS
In 2008, the UNCT HIV/AIDS Theme Group, working in close partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Malaysian AIDS Council, UNAIDS, UNODC, other government agencies, international organizations and Malaysian NGOs, supported programmes related to the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS (2006-2010) as well as new policy initiatives on the national Harm Reduction Programme, as its contribution to the achievement of MDG 6 targets and the broader challenge of halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country
The recruitment of a UNCT HIV/AIDS Technical Coordinator was finalized in October 2008 with substantive financial funding from the UNAIDS Regional Office in Bangkok to strengthen the substantive, strategic and coordination capacity of the UNCT on HIV and AIDS.
In addition, a media advocacy event to raise awareness on the need for prevention and containment of HIV/AIDS was organized on AIDS Memorial Day 2008. In commemoration of World AIDS Day 2008 the UNCT also provided support for the organization of the “Red Carnival 2008”, and collaborated with PT Foundation and various other groups and communities involved in the public campaign to raise awareness about the need for prevention and containment of HIV/AIDS in Malaysia, as well as for care and support to persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Avian Influenza Action Plan for UN Malaysia
The UNCT continued to work closely with various national agencies and UN OCHA and participated in various regional workshops to reinforce awareness and communication on Avian and Human Influenza. It also provided technical support to the National Preparedness Plan on Avian Flu. A desktop AI Simulation Exercise for Focal Points of UN Agencies, with assistance from an OCHA consultant was also conducted to review the effectiveness of the Malaysian AI Contingency Plan. The outcome of the exercise led to the inclusion of a communication plan and improved plan of action.
The UNCT continued its efforts on HACT implementation in Malaysia. Various meetings were held with Government and the UN-Implementing Partners (IP) Steering Committee was formed comprising representatives from Government and UN agencies, to ensure that HACT is rolled-out in January 2009. A HACT training, with assistance from the Regional Office, was conducted for staff from UN agencies, key government agencies, such as the Economic Planning Unit and Ministry of Finance, and proposed implementing partners. The process of recruiting an independent consultant to conduct the macro and micro assessments was initiated and will be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2009. All implementing partners have now also agreed to the use of the FACE form by January 2009.
The UNCT under the leadership of the DO and SMT have continued to maintain extreme vigilance on all security matters affecting UN staff in Malaysia whose numbers had significantly incrased to close to 450 staff by end December 2008. A comparative analysis was conducted to review and recommend improvements to the existing security system for UN Malaysia and to explore the possibility of the relocation of the UN Building, looking at minimum security and safety requirements, in the light of the Algiers attack. The Security Risk Assessment Plan was also updated. In order to reinforce awareness of safety and security of UN staff and UN premises, a security training was conducted for all UN staff. The Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the UN Building was also reviewed, and recommendations were made for an enhanced fire safety system and emergency generator for the UN Building, which will be in-place by early 2009.
Key aspects of the proposed 2009 workplan
The UNCT based on its February 2-3, 2009 Retreat expects to develop a more substantive, coherent and strategic framework for 2009 to respond to national development priorities. This should also contribute to the development of the 10th Malaysian Plan, addressing issues which go beyond the MDGs. The UNCT through the Theme Group on HIV/AIDS will continue to strengthen its HIV/AIDS initiatives and formulate more coherent strategies to support the Government and other stakeholders in preparing for the next National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS (2011-2015). In doing so, it will prioritize support for scaling-up the harm reduction programme, and address the increasing feminization of the epidemic. The UNCT will also provide technical support to enable Malaysia’s successful participation in the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Chair of the Theme Group will be represented in the National Country Coordinating Mechanism which is being established to oversee this.
The UNCT will also prioritize monitoring the evolving global financial and economic crisis and its impact and implications for Malaysia’s national development agenda and aspirations, especially how it affects the most vulnerable communities in the short-term and the country’s 2020 Vision in the longer-term. The UNCT will also deepen its involvement and focus on initiatives related to a rights-based approach to development and has just established a new Theme Group on Human Rights and Development in February 2009. Gender related issues will continue to be an important cross-cutting dimension in all activities. Given these new initiatives and the increasing demands and complexity of the RC function and the expectations of greater UN coherence and effectiveness at global, regional and country levels, the UNCT in Malaysia is in urgent need for additional funding to strengthen and support the RC function in 2009.
The UNCT will continue to build alliances and maintain close relations with key Government stakeholders, civil society organisations, academia, private sector, and other regional and international organizations both to advocate UN values and principles and to raise overall profile of a coherent UN in Malaysia.